Why Do We Need to “Understand” Fans? A Conversation with Mark Duffett

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Those of us studying fandom will no doubt be familiar with the excellent work of Henry JenkinsSome of you may also know Henry’s popular and long-running blog, Confessions of an Aca-Fan. After I completed ‘Understanding Fandom’ last year, my publisher approached Henry to explore the possibility of interview. He read the book carefully and sent over a very insightful and penetrating list of questions. The first part of the interview has just been published. Henry starts by offering some of his thoughts on Understanding Fandom:

“I am using it as one of the core texts for my own graduate seminar this term on fandom, participatory culture, and web 2.0. 


Duffett sets out to provide a critical overview of some of the core texts which have helped to define the study of fandom; as one of the writers he discusses at some length, I felt that he was asking hard questions about how this work has withstood the tests of time and the challenges of next generation scholarship but he approached them with fairness, nuance, and much greater attention to detail than most other writers bring to this subject. 

I did not always agree with what he had to say about some of the key issues in the field, but I was glad he was pushing the discussion to the next level, and I am eager to see how others in the field react to his formulations. 

Beyond summing up what has already been done, though, he points us in some new directions — as Matt Hills suggests in his introduction to the book — and that’s where I’ve chosen to focus my attention in this interview. I learned a lot from reading his account, especially because he is not necessarily beholding to some of the false distinctions which have held our work hostage for so long.”

… Read the full interview here:

Part 1 is on stereotyping fandom and the different academic traditions.

Part 2 is on anti-fandom and fans’ relationships to media industries.

Part 3 is on fannish subjectivies: public / private, individual / social, and essential / performed.

Part 4 is on race, the emergence of fandom, and the idea of one unified fan theory.